Quotulatiousness

June 17, 2016

QotD: That time that Jeremy Clarkson sabotaged a Reliant Robin for a Top Gear segment

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Here’s what Clarkson confessed to the Sunday Times:

    TO JUDGE from the letters I get and the remarks in the street, it seems the most memorable thing I did on Top Gear was a short segment about the Reliant Robin. You may remember: I drove it around Sheffield and it kept falling over.

    Well, now’s the time to come clean. A normal Reliant Robin will not roll unless a drunken rugby team is on hand. Or it’s windy. But in a headlong drive to amuse and entertain, I’d asked the backroom boys to play around with the differential so that the poor little thing rolled over every time I turned the steering wheel.

    Naturally, the health and safety department was very worried about this and insisted that the car be fitted with a small hammer that I could use, in case I was trapped after the roll, to break what was left of the glass.

Reliant sold plenty of cheap, usable little three-wheelers, and somehow managed to never be charged for crimes against humanity. The cars weren’t the most stable things in the world (no pointy-fronted three-wheeler is) but they certainly didn’t tumble around like a roofie’d Mary Lou Retton at every turn.

Jason Torchinsky, “Clarkson Reveals Bombshell: Top Gear Modified Reliant Robins To Make Them Roll”, Jalopnik, 2016-01-13.

March 30, 2016

Jeremy Clarkson and the “Bremain” cause

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

It was apparently quite a surprise when Jeremy Clarkson, formerly of the BBC TV show Top Gear, came out in favour of Britain staying within the European Union. Patrick West explains why it shouldn’t surprise anyone at all:

While Top Gear was a vehicle in which to issue mischievous slights about Indians and Mexicans, not a series seemed to pass without a snide remark from Clarkson about people from Birmingham. Or Liverpool. Or Scotland. Or the north of England. Or the West Country. In fact, anywhere outside London. His Sunday Times column over the years has been the same.

As he once observed: ‘Provincial Britain is probably one of the most depressing places on earth… the towns, with their pedestrian precincts and the endless parade of charity shops and estate agents… There is nothing you want to see. Nothing you want to do. You wade knee-deep through a sea of discarded styrofoam trays smeared with bits of last night’s horseburger… for the most part urban Britain is utterly devoid of any redeeming feature whatsoever.’ Here, Clarkson displays all the prejudices of a sneering, metropolitan, right-on BBC comedian. As a paid-up member of the snide establishment, Clarkson is ideal pro-EU material.

Among those who urge us to remain in the EU, a certain type of patrician class has been emerging. Its members may hail from different political traditions, but among them we find rich, privately educated, well-mannered, conspicuously cosmopolitan, paternal and patronising types, people who work in entertainment or big business, and many of whom have a material interest for wanting to remain in the EU: dirt-cheap, servile foreign labour; pliant Czech nannies; and second homes in Tuscany and the south of France.

Ever since Clarkson dropped his Yorkshire accent, he has sought to become part of that elite. And now that he is a member of an executive club, why else wouldn’t he want to remain part of another: the EU?

Bundling

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 7 Apr 2015

Bundling refers to when two or more goods are sold together as a package. Microsoft Office, Cable TV, Lexis-Nexis, and Spotify all provide examples of bundling. What if there were no bundling and you had to pay for Cable TV by channel rather than purchasing channels in bundles? Would you end up paying more or less? We explore this question and others in this video.

March 16, 2016

Game of Thrones is “only tits and dragons”

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Ian McShane spills the beans on some of the roles he’s played:

… McShane has made this brief return to British television, because this is where he made his name, back in the Eighties, with the comedy drama Lovejoy. That show, in which he played a lovable but roguish antiques dealer, would attract around 16 million viewers and turn him into an unlikely sex symbol.

After that, he went to Hollywood and never looked back, making films such as Sexy Beast, Hot Rod and the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean. Most notably, he starred in the cult television series Deadwood (2004-06), about a South Dakota gold mining town in the lawless 1870s. He played the saloon bar and brothel owner Al Swearengen, known as much for his poetically foul mouth as for his calm way of being violent. With its subtle characterisation and rich, almost Shakespearean language, Deadwood earned huge critical acclaim and eight Emmys, including a Best Actor award for McShane.

[…]

He is also about to appear in Game of Thrones. In his cavalier way the other day, he lit up the internet by letting slip that his character, a priest, brings back a popular character who was thought to have died in an earlier episode. “You say the slightest thing and the internet goes ape,” he says. “I was accused of giving the plot away, but I just think get a f—ing life. It’s only tits and dragons”.

They asked me if I wanted to do Game of Thrones and I said, “Sure, I’ll be able to see my old pals Charlie Dance and Stephen Dillane” and they said, “No, we’ve killed them off.” I wasn’t sure whether I could commit, but then they said it would only be for one episode, so I said, “So that means I must die at the end of it. Great, I’m in.” (And with that, he gives away another plot twist.)

March 15, 2016

QotD: Safety glasses are not magical talismans of protection

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Sewer gas is like a lot of topics in construction and maintenance. Sewer gas should be understood, and its relative danger respected. Fear is not the same as knowledge and respect.

Knowledge coupled with respect is not au courant in today’s world. If you watch any “home improvement” show, there is only one constant. Everyone wears safety glasses all the time no matter how trivial the dangers involved. I have seen people put on safety glasses to hang drapes. If you truly understand risk, and respect danger in proportion to that risk, you are using judgment. If you do not understand risk, but are simply afraid of everything, you wear safety glasses all the time. An overwhelming fear of putting your eye out trumps any rational assessment of the behavior you should undertake to avoid it. You’d be smarter to examine your neurotic urge to achieve an illusory feeling of safety while ignoring really dangerous things.

Safety glasses are the clown shoes of fear. I have seen all the shelter shows — once — and I have observed a noticeably pregnant woman put on safety glasses in order to undertake the demolition of perfectly good tile in her tract home bathroom. It’s not unwise to wear safety glasses if you’re determined to strike ceramic tile with a sledgehammer. It’s just really dumb to think that striking ceramic tile with a sledgehammer is how demolition is accomplished. The pregnant woman was wearing flip flops in order to display her painted toenails to the public. People who understand risk and respect the process they’ve undertaken do not perform demolition in open-toed shoes while pregnant. Believing that wearing safety glasses under those circumstances bestows safety is magical, cargo cult thinking. Magical thinking doesn’t result in safety, ever. It results in paranoia with recklessness ladled all over it.

Sippican Cottage, “Interestingly, ‘Malfunction of Unknown Provenance’ Is the Name of My Men Without Hats Tribute Band. But I Digress”, Sippican Cottage, 2016-02-25.

March 10, 2016

The Trouble with Transporters

Filed under: Humour, Media, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 7 Mar 2016

February 20, 2016

The Ezra and Rachel show

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The Alberta government tried to expel journalists from a particular (and particularly irritating) right wing media organization and was utterly shocked to discover that the rest of the mainstream media didn’t play along:

The MSM’s defence of the Rebel reminded me of how libertarians used to defend the rights of Holocaust deniers: Teeth clenched and at a long arm’s distance. The hatred of Ezra Levant by the Great and Good — and he is truly hated — is largely tonal. The right-wing impresario’s politics are not terrible right of centre, remember this is a guy who worked for both Stockwell Day and Preston Manning. Some of his campaigns and video rants — if rendered in more moderate language — could even gain the assent of the editorial staff at the Globe. The great sin of Ezra is that he is terribly rude.

More than half a century ago Pierre Berton observed that you can get away with saying anything in Canada, so long as you wear a bow-tie. It was an important insight into the Canadian character. There sits on the NDP and Liberal parliamentary benches figures far more radical — in terms of political distance from the mainstream — than anything that has ever passed the lips of Mr Levant. These radicals however speak in the dulcet tones of the Leftist argot. They wear the modern day equivalent of bow-ties and so pass unhindered through the corridors of influence and power.

Some of those corridors are now occupied by Rachel Notley and her band of tone-deaf socialists. That the Rebel was deliberately targeted is obvious enough. The thing that is truly fascinating is how utterly ill-prepared the NDP High Command was for the backlash. They basically handed Ezra a massive campaign on a silver plater. What were they expecting to happen? This is a man who makes his living fighting crusades over freedom of expression. Did they really think he’d refuse to pick up this particular gauntlet? That his tens of thousands of supporters would fail to back him as they’ve backed him so many times before?

With the Rebel the committed Right in Canada has at last found a perfect platform. No longer burdened by the tacit censorship and looming overhead costs of the legacy media, a genuinely new media has emerged to finish what’s left of the old. That may sound like hyperbole and perhaps it is. Yet there is a better than even chance that twenty years from now there will still be Ezra Levant ranting at full throttle, while his many critics and opponents have vanished into history.

January 23, 2016

QotD: The Canadian Broadcorping Castration

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There is the CBC that exists in reality, the CBC that no one watches or really cares much about. Then there is the CBC that exists in the mind of its defenders. The CBC that may have at some point existed, albeit briefly, but never quite as anyone remembers it. The Mother Corp’s dwindling band of supporters think of it as they think of Canada; a bundle of vaguely patriotic abstractions carefully divorced from the frigid realities of daily life.

There is little point in reminding the reader that the CBC is a government subsidized anachronism that, so far as it ever made sense, made sense when men still walked around wearing fedoras and chain smoked at office desks. Though in fairness it’s unlikely Don Draper would have ever watched anything quite so lame.

If a thing lacks either beauty or utility the sensible thing is to get rid of it. Yet the Mother Corp survives. The seemingly indestructible zombie of the Canadian media landscape. The CBC continues to exist not because it’s relevant but because it’s too much trouble to kill. The Conservatives are afraid of pulling the plug because they’ll be attacked for silencing their critics, the Liberals are afraid of firing their most loyal supporters and the NDP has an ingrained resistance to cutting things loose, however useless. See Chow, Olivia.

Take the frequently used line by the CBC’s defenders and erstwhile allies: We need the state broadcaster to ensure a national conversation. Thing about conversations is that at least two people are required. Otherwise you’re just talking to yourself in a dimly lit room. There are terms to describe people like that and defender of the Canadian nationalist faith isn’t one of them.

This is more than just beating a dead public policy horse. The CBC’s absurdity is not as fascinating as what it reveals about the Canadian Left’s mindset. As a life-long resident of the Imperial Capital I can attest to the prevalence of the CBC Friend. This Friend will wear CBC buttons, buy CBC apparel and speak passionately about the value the CBC provides to Canadians of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and regional localities. About once a week they’ll muster up their patriotism and spend twenty minutes slogging through whatever’s on Radio One before switching back to classic rock.

The CBC Friend is to the CBC as Sunday Catholics are to Christianity. Piety bleeding into righteous hypocrisy. Which would be fine really. Except that Sunday Catholics don’t dip into my pockets. Messers Baldwin and Lafontaine mostly separately Church and State in Canada. Unfortunately Mackenzie King made a point of not separating Broadcasting and State. The basic conceit remains the same in either case: My Truth is so True and so Right that everyone else must pay for it.

But the Truths that the CBC promotes go far beyond whatever Peter Mansbridge is grumbling about tomorrow night. They are a vision of Canadian society that most Canadians find unrecognizable. It’s been joked for years that the CBC doesn’t tell Canada’s story to Canadians, it tells Canada’s story from Torontonians. This explains the special smugness about the reporting that simply isn’t found elsewhere in the country. Not even in Ottawa.

Richard Anderson, “A Platonic Relationship”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2014-12-10.

December 25, 2015

QotD: A Charlie Brown commercialization exercise

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I wonder […] what younger generations make of the cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charles M. Schulz was obviously, almost blatantly, the American Kierkegaard — an austere, offbeat prophet of existentialist unhappiness from America’s weird Nordic/Lutheran corner. Kierkegaard, like other gloomy European philosophers, had a pretty good run of popularity in the ’60s, but you don’t see him on posters very often anymore. Questions about behavioural authenticity and the meaning of ritual fit the mood of a world just beginning to secularize.

In the cartoon, Charlie Brown, clad in classic existentialist discontent, obsesses over whether he is doing Christmas right, eventually experiencing anguish over whether there is any such thing as “right.” The answer to his questions turns out to be a Bible verse quoted by Linus, the theologian of the Peanuts cast, who seems to cut cleanly in one stroke through Charlie’s neurotic contortions. Linus’s Bible quote about peace on Earth and goodwill toward men still chimes in our hearts because of its stately archaic language, but as an answer to Charlie Brown’s concerns it is not rationally satisfying, and in fact it is hard for us to understand Charlie’s problem at all.

It is Lucy who now seems to be the clued-in one — truly a woman ahead of her time. “We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket,” she tells Charlie Brown. “It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate.” The key is that she says this without rancour, almost admiringly: she would have loved the whole idea of Black Friday.

Colby Cosh, “Good grief! The commercialism of Christmas isn’t so bad”, Maclean’s, 2014-12-25.

December 21, 2015

The Monkees – “Riu Chiu” HD (Official Music Video) – from THE MONKEES – THE COMPLETE SERIES Blu Ray

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Uploaded on 15 Dec 2015

The Monkees perform “Riu Chiu” from Episode 47, “The Monkees’ Christmas Show”.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

December 17, 2015

A slightly more plausible conspiracy theory about “The Donald”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle isn’t normally a spinner of conspiracy theories, but here’s one that might appeal to you if you’ve been feverishly searching for the reason behind the Trump Insurgency:

If the news media actually operated like the tacit conspiracy that many conservatives imagine, we would have all quietly gotten together and agreed to bury Trump. He could rant in the privacy of his own home, as reporters graciously declined to broadcast his latest pronouncements. Instead, every time he says something, everyone in the media rushes to condemn, fact-check, analyze, highlight, mutilate, fold and spindle it. All this media outrage, of course, only improves his ratings with people who believe in the conspiracy.

Why does this happen? It’s a collective action problem. If other people are reporting on Trump, then he’s news, which means you have to report on him too. Witness the fact that I am writing something like my sixth or seventh column on a man who I still don’t think will be the Republican nominee, much less the president of the United States.

It’s obvious that media moguls didn’t meet in a smoky back room to silence coverage of Trump. But there’s a slightly more plausible theory: That the Hillary Clinton supporters among the news media see Trump’s nomination as the best thing that could possibly happen for the Democratic Party. Unless the Grand Old Party nominated the disinterred corpse of Richard Nixon, there’s probably no surer path to Clinton’s victory.

Trump consistently underperforms folks like Marco Rubio in head-to-head matchups against Democratic candidates. As a nominee he would motivate massive turnout among Latinos who want to vote against him. And the party operation he’ll need to actually get supporters to the polls in November 2016 is not going to rally behind him with any great enthusiasm even if he somehow manages to secure the nomination. Trump supporters should be absolutely clear on this point: A vote for Trump in the primary is a vote for Clinton in the general.

It’s a slightly more plausible theory, but let’s get real: Journalists are covering Trump because he’s newsworthy. It’s an unintended side effect that coverage of Trump helps Clinton.

December 13, 2015

The “Overton Window” meets “The Donald”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David French first introduces the political notion of the Overton Window and then describes the impact of Donald Trump on that window:

Here’s a term you need to know — the “Overton Window.” Developed by the late Joseph Overton, a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the “window” refers to the range of acceptable political discourse on any given topic. As the Mackinac Center explains, “the ‘window’ of politically acceptable options is primarily defined not by what politicians prefer, but rather by what they believe they can support and still win re-election.” The key to shifting policy lies not so much in changing politicians but in changing the terms of the debate. In other words, “The window shifts to include different policy options not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.”

The Left — dominating the media, the academy, and pop culture — is unmatched at moving the Overton Window. Consider gay marriage, a subject once so far outside the mainstream that less than 20 years ago, Republicans and Democrats united to pass the Defense of Marriage Act to define marriage under federal law as the union of one man and one woman. Now? That view is such an anathema that it’s difficult to get — or retain — a job in entire sectors of the economy if you openly hold to the traditionalist position on marriage.

The Overton Window moved even faster on transgender rights. Ten years ago the notion that a man with emotional problems and breast implants could be named “Woman of the Year” was unthinkable. Now, in some quarters it’s just as unthinkable to refer to Bruce Jenner — Bruce Jenner! — as a man.

[…]

Then along came Donald Trump. On key issues, he didn’t just move the Overton Window, he smashed it, scattered the shards, and rolled over them with a steamroller. On issues like immigration, national security, and even the manner of political debate itself, there’s no window left. Registration of Muslims? On the table. Bans on Muslims entering the country? On the table. Mass deportation? On the table. Walling off our southern border at Mexico’s expense? On the table. The current GOP front-runner is advocating policies that represent the mirror-image extremism to the Left’s race and identity-soaked politics.

Critically, the Overton Window was smashed not by a politician but by a very American hybrid of corporate/entertainment titan — a man rich and powerful enough to be immune to elite condemnation and famous enough to dominate the news media. How many people can commandeer live television simply by picking up the phone and calling in? How many politicians can cause Twitter to detonate seemingly at will?

While many of Trump’s actual proposals are misguided, nonsensical, or untenable, by smashing the window, he’s begun the process of freeing the American people from the artificial and destructive constraints of Left-defined discourse. Serious and substantive politicians like Ted Cruz will get a more respectful hearing, and PC shibboleths about allegedly boundless virtues of Islam and immigration will be treated with the skepticism they deserve.

November 23, 2015

Do you have a smartphone? Do you watch TV? You might want to reconsider that combination

Filed under: India, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At The Register, Iain Thomson explains a new sneaky way for unscrupulous companies to snag your personal data without your knowledge or consent:

Earlier this week the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) warned that an Indian firm called SilverPush has technology that allows adverts to ping inaudible commands to smartphones and tablets.

Now someone has reverse-engineered the code and published it for everyone to check.

SilverPush’s software kit can be baked into apps, and is designed to pick up near-ultrasonic sounds embedded in, say, a TV, radio or web browser advert. These signals, in the range of 18kHz to 19.95kHz, are too high pitched for most humans to hear, but can be decoded by software.

An application that uses SilverPush’s code can pick up these messages from the phone or tablet’s builtin microphone, and be directed to send information such as the handheld’s IMEI number, location, operating system version, and potentially the identity of the owner, to the application’s backend servers.

Imagine sitting in front of the telly with your smartphone nearby. An advert comes on during the show you’re watching, and it has a SilverPush ultrasonic message embedded in it. This is picked up by an app on your mobile, which pings a media network with information about you, and could even display followup ads and links on your handheld.

How it works ... the transfer of sound-encoded information from a TV to a phone to a backend server

How it works … the transfer of sound-encoded information from a TV to a phone to a backend server

“This kind of technology is fundamentally surreptitious in that it doesn’t require consent; if it did require it then the number of users would drop,” Joe Hall, chief technologist at CDT told The Register on Thursday. “It lacks the ability to have consumers say that they don’t want this and not be associated by the software.”

Hall pointed out that very few of the applications that include the SilverPush SDK tell users about it, so there was no informed consent. This makes such software technically illegal in Europe and possibly in the US.

November 13, 2015

The Making Of Thunderbirds

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 2 Jan 2014

Thunderbirds Documentary. Step into the twisted mind of Gerry Anderson, and see how he makes Thunderbirds. F.A.B. A favorite show from my childhood with more information than I ever wanted.

H/T to The Arts Mechanical for the link.

November 12, 2015

“Camille Paglia is an intellectual flamethrower”

Filed under: Books, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rachel Toor talks to Camille Paglia:

Not long after she had splashed onto the scene with the publication of her first book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, and followed that up with an essay in The New York Times claiming that Madonna was the future of feminism, I went to see Camille Paglia speak on a panel about political correctness at New York University. My recollection is of being frisked by armed guards before being allowed to enter the auditorium, but it’s more likely we just had to empty our pockets and go through a metal detector. That I thought the extra protection was for the professor from a small arts college in Philadelphia, and not for another speaker on the dais, Edward Said, tells you something about how Paglia was regarded in the circles in which I traveled.

Camille Paglia is an intellectual flamethrower. She’s fearless. She can be bully-mean and a name caller. She makes some people really, really mad. But she’s also a serious thinker who has been able to write important scholarly books that cross over into a wide readership, and you can regularly find her byline in national magazines, where it’s always a treat to read her sentences. Whether she’s writing about the Obama administration, characterizing cats (in Sexual Personae) as the “autocrats of self-interest,” rhapsodizing about The Real Housewives, or bludgeoning feminists, Christopher Hitchens, or Jon Stewart, she is sometimes right and never boring.

I approached her for this series with trepidation. I was eager to hear what she had to say about writing, but, to be honest, I was a little afraid of her (she called my former boss, Stanley Fish, a “totalitarian Tinkerbell”). Silly me. Camille could not have been more gracious, personable, or fun. She did tell me with a bit of glee that my former employer, Oxford University Press, was one of the seven publishers who rejected Sexual Personae. Thankfully that was before I started working there.

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